Blizzard, of 1888 Brings Back Memories

Footnotes to Long Island History

Blizzard of 1888 Brings back Memories


Thomas R. Bayles

Diary of Richard Bayles describes Blizzard's Effect

                 The fall of snow in the blizzard of 1888 was apparently about the same as fell in the big storm of last December  but winds of hurricane force which piled the snow up in huge drifts of from 5 to 15 feet in the 1888 storm made conditions much worse than they were during the past winter

                Notes from the diary of my father give a brief picture of conditions during and after that famous storm.

                "March 10th 1888: Beautiful clear spring like day. Surface is getting quite dry."

                "March 11th: Mild morning, Southeast winds comes on and rain in evening."

                "March 12th: A fierce snowstorm is in progress this morning the heaviest of the winter, with a strong northeast wind. the wildest storm of the winter prevails the wind increasing in fury in the afternoon. All night it blows with greatest fury I ever saw."

                "March 13th: Roads are impassible snowdrift 8 feet high being frequent. Air is full of snow. Strong Northerly Winds prevail. Mercury 10 above this morning. No sun all day"

                March 14th: Calm and beautiful the sun shines upon the earth buried under the deepest fall of snow known in over 40 years at least. Clouds soon overcast and snow falls during most of the day. No vehicle passed since the 11th."

                "March 17th: This is pronounced by the oldest people as the most severe snowstorm they ever knew. The snow would probably average about two feet deep on the level but is so badly drifted it is almost impossible to measure with banks four to ten feet deep. No mails yet"

                "March 21st: Rain all day with southerly wind is taking snow off rapidly. Mails resume for first time after suspension of nine days."

                During the Sunday night March 11th there was a heavy rain which turned to snow early in the morning and continued all day with winds increasing to gale force at night, The thermometer fell to near zero in the night and Tuesday morning great drifts of fine packed snow made highways impassable and blocked the railroads cuts so that trains were unable to get through. Snow continued to fall on Tuesday with the storm ceasing on Wednesday and the weather came off fair and mostly mild.

                The train that started from Greenport to the city on Monday morning got as far as Holbrook where it got stuck in the snow banks and remained for two day. the passengers found a case of eggs they boiled in water from the locomotive and also a box of crackers on the main line of the railroad was practically abandoned for several days.

                Patchogue was not open from the west until Thursday afternoon the 15th and Sag Harbor, the next day . As soon as the Montauk division  was clear, three engines and a plow that had been working there were sent to clear the branch from Manorville to Eastport and on Sunday night March 18th the plow reached Riverhead. Two engines and a plow that were at Greenport when the storm began, worked west from Greenport and on Tuesday afternoon march 20th met eastbound plow and opened the first rail connection to the city since March 12th.

                It was not until a week after the storm that some mail was brought to Greenport via New London and then across the sound. On Wednesday March 21st trains began making regular runs to east end villages by the Montauk division and around the horn from Eastport and Manorville to Greenport.

                In some places the snow banks were so deep that the boys stood on top of them and looked down on sleighs going along the road below them. At one place the laborers shoveling snow for the railroads hung their coats on top of telegraph poles along the right of way.

                The early Monday morning trains on the Port Jefferson branch were caught in the cuts between Hicksville and Westbury and were still there on Friday.

"                The following items of the blizzard week have been taken from various Long Island papers.

                "Andrew Van Sicklen of Black Stump, Jamaica drove to New York on Thursday with some rhubarb which he sold for $12 a dozen bunches."

                "Eggs brought six cents each at Flushing during the early part of the snow blockade and it is safe to say the Flushing hen was nursed and squeezed for all she was worth"

                "At Minneola  on Wednesday a single New York newspaper made its appearance and was auctioned off to the highest bidder bringing $1. A man then employed at 50 cents to mount a stool and read it aloud to the room full of news hungry men."

                "No mail reached Oyster bay from March 10th until the evening of March 20th Making ten full days without word from anyone outside of the village."

                "The snow was so high along Remsen Avenue, Rockaway Beach, that a tunnel was dug from John Remsen's Sea View cottage to the railroad track, a distance of five hundred feet."

                "The losses to the Long Island Railroad will exceed $100,000 it is believed and three or four thousand men were employed for about a week clearing the tracks.


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